adidas has provided the official FIFA World Cup ball for 50 years
The Telstar debuted at Mexico 1970
It changed football design forever
"The secret of football lies in the ball," West Germany legend Uwe Seeler once said, echoing the thoughts of billions of fans. It is no wonder, then, that the FIFA World Cup™ is one of the biggest sporting events on the planet. There are countless names across the globe for the most important tool in the game, while phrases such as ‘the ball is your friend’ are widely known.
Sporting equipment manufacturer adidas has provided the official World Cup ball since Mexico 1970. And before then? At the inaugural tournament in 1930, each half of the Final was played with a different ball because both teams insisted on using their own. Subsequently, balls provided by the host country were usually used.
While early footballs were primarily made up of 12 panels, an 18-panel ball was used in the 1954 Final, and a number of variations thereof used until 1966.
The evolution of the ball continued to progress over the following decades as experts worked meticulously on making the perfect sphere. The adidas era began 50 years ago in Mexico and for the first time the ball was given a name: Telstar. A total of 32 special leather panels made it the roundest ball of its time.
The name of the original Telstar came from its status as 'the star of television'. The first ball to be decorated with black panels, the pattern was designed to stand out on black-and-white TVs, and changed football design forever.
Telstar - official match ball of the 1970 FIFA World Cup™ photo: adidas
Telstar - official match ball of the 1974 FIFA World Cup™ photo: adidas
After the Telstar Durlast was used at Germany 1974, it was the turn of the Tango at Argentina 1978, a model so futuristic that it provided the blueprint for the next five World Cups, although it was the introduction of the Tango Espana for Spain 1982 that heralded the age of synthetic balls. It was still predominantly made from leather, but its water-repellent polyurethane layer meant balls had now become high-tech pieces of equipment. It was followed by the Azteca, Etrusco and Questra models.
The first time a coloured ball was used was the Tricolore at France 1998. Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006 employed revolutionary balls in the Fevernova and +Teamgeist in that they were rounder, more accurate and more stable.
At South Africa 2010, the Jabulani, which was made up of just eight synthetic panels, was designed to bring teams good luck and goals. In making the 11th official World Cup ball, adidas succeeded in producing the most stable and accurate ball of all time.
That was followed by Brazuca, which boasted a new structural innovation: its unique symmetry of six identical panels alongside a different surface structure provided improved grip, touch, feel, stability and aerodynamics on the pitch.
Almost 50 years after the first Telstar, the most recent World Cup ball was the Telstar 18, which featured a brand new carcass, high technology and sustainable elements such as recycled packaging. It also included an embedded NFC chip, which enabled consumers to interact with the ball using a smartphone. The personalised and location-aware experience displayed specific details of each ball and provided access to challenges which users could enter in the run-up to the World Cup.
“The original Telstar is one of the most iconic footballs of all time and one which changed football design forever, so developing the Telstar 18 while staying true to the original model was a really exciting challenge for us,” said Roland Rommler, Category Director of Football Hardware at adidas. “The new panel structure and inclusion of an NFC chip has taken football innovation and design to a new level and offers both consumers and players a completely new experience.”